SUNRISE – The Canadiens kick off the second quarter of their season with a particular goal in mind: staying out of the box.
With the first 12 games of the 2012-13 campaign already in the books, the Habs have currently racked up more penalty minutes than any other team in the NHL with a grand total of 269.
Discipline is clearly something Michel Therrien will be stressing with his team in the coming weeks – not just because he’d like to see his squad spend a little less time killing off penalties, but also because it gives him a better opportunity to make use of all the weapons in his arsenal.
|BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida |
“We want to be able to give more responsibility and more ice time to guys like [Alex] Galchenyuk and [Brendan] Gallagher, but when you find yourself spending almost an entire period defending because of penalties, it makes it tough for them to see much quality time out there,” explained Therrien, following Thursday morning’s optional skate in Sunrise. “Being disciplined is important for us right now and we’ve been focusing on it a lot recently.”
Facing off against the Canadiens Thursday night, is a Panthers team led by coach Kevin Dineen who will be looking to get themselves back on the right track after dropping their last two games, both to the Washington Capitals. In the midst of a tough season, the Panthers also got out to a difficult start early on in 2011-12, dropping five in a row, including a 4-1 loss to the Habs at the Bell Centre.
As is usually the case when the Canadiens visit Florida, seats at the BB&T Center in Sunrise will likely be filled with more than a healthy dose of fans draped in the bleu-blanc-rouge there to cheer on the visiting team.
“Playing here is always special. There are a lot of snowbirds that make their way down here in the winter, and it definitely adds an interesting ambiance to the games,” pointed out Therrien, who will step behind the bench for his 203rd game as head coach of the Canadiens. “This should be a tough game. We’re going up against a team that wants to get themselves back in the playoff race immediately.”
For the players, Florida games are a great opportunity to feel like they’re playing a home game, despite being 2,600 km away from Montreal.
“I think we’re incredibly lucky to have that many fans. The Canadiens organization has been around forever and fans are really kind of spread out all over the world,” offered [P.K.] Subban, who like the rest of the team will be able to take heart from the sheer amount of Habs jerseys bound to be in the stands Thursday night. “It’s always amazing to come down here and see how many people are out to support us.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
Game preview: Canadiens @ Panthers